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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Stimulus funds will buy buses for STA

10 of 23 additions to fleet will be hybrids

Spokane Transit Authority will receive $10.6 million in federal economic stimulus money and plans to use most of the cash to buy 23 new buses, including 10 diesel-electric hybrids.

Using stimulus money to purchase buses will relieve pressure on STA’s operating budget as sales tax collections decline, officials said.

The new buses will reduce ongoing maintenance costs for older buses and save on fuel costs. The hybrids will reduce emissions, said Molly Myers, communications manager for STA.

The buses probably will be purchased from Gillig Corp., based in Hayward, Calif., she said.

Susan Meyer, STA’s chief executive officer, said the purchase will let the agency continue to serve a growing ridership. And the stimulus money means local money can be spent on operations instead.

“This is especially important while sales tax revenues, our primary source of funding, continue to drop,” Meyer said in a prepared statement.

Sales tax collections were down 3.4 percent in 2008 from 2007 and continued to decline in the first two months of 2009, officials said.

At the same time, ridership last year was up 18 percent, with the increase continuing in January and February.

STA officials also want to use the stimulus money for security surveillance, preventive maintenance and other expenses.

The government requires that STA move ahead with purchases within six months.

The STA board gave preliminary approval to the purchases at a meeting last week, Myers said.

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